Australian news, and some related international items

Long-Term Radiation Exposure From Space Travel Harms Memory, Mood

Long-Term Radiation Exposure From Space Travel Harms Memory, Mood, D-brief, 

By Korey Haynes | August 5, 2019  There’s a major outstanding question lingering over the future of human spaceflight: Just how much radiation can the body handle? While humans have spent more than a year at a time on orbiting space stations without ill effect from radiation, almost all astronaut experience has been in low-Earth orbit. There, humans are still semi-safely enclosed within our planet’s magnetic field, which offers protection from the bulk of space radiation.

Researchers also know that short, powerful doses of radiation are deadly. But less is known about long-term, low-dose radiation — the kind that settlers on Mars or the moon would face.

Now, a team of scientists led by Charles Limoli at the University of California, Irvine, has taken a step toward a better understanding of those long-term risks. The researchers exposed mice to chronic, low-dose radiation for six months. The results are troubling for the future of spaceflight. The radiation left the mice suffering from both memory and mood problems that the scientists say would likely show up in human subjects as well. The results were published Monday in the journal eNeuro.

Radiation on the Brain

In the study, the mice showed “severe impairments in learning and memory,” according to the research paper. The mice were also generally more stressed out by their environments. That isn’t a good sign for space settlers, who will need their wits to face unforeseen struggles. Other studies have also already shown the potential ill effects of the long-term isolation and stress.

In the past, scientists hit lab mice with radiation levels some 100,000 times higher than they’d actually experience on Mars’ surface. But the researchers say their test is the first that has used these lower, more realistic doses of radiation over long periods to study space travel. Their efforts were made possible by a new facility.

The radiation included both neutrons – heavy particles from atomic nuclei – and pure energy in the form of gamma rays and other scattered photons……

Researchers found both physical and chemical changes in the brains they examined, in addition to the behavioral changes they observed in the living mice……..

more tests need to be done, and the radiation, while more realistic than past experiments, still doesn’t exactly mimic the space environment. But if their results hold up, they’re not a good sign for the future of human space settlement, at least not without a lot of bulky and expensive radiation shielding.

August 6, 2019 - Posted by | General News

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